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Monday, June 7, 2010

Mediocre State of Mind

With spring racing nearly at an end, I find myself utterly disappointed by the quality of this year’s 3-year-old male crop. There, I said it. I know some contrarians out there will disagree, that I'm being too harsh, but after the results thus far (not to mention one of the slowest Belmont Stakes in history), it’s hard to imagine this crop being anything but below average. No colt or gelding has won more than one Grade 1 race this year, and only Sidney’s Candy, Eskendereya, Conveyance and Lookin at Lucky have won more than one graded stakes race as a 3-year-old:

Sidney’s Candy (G1 Santa Anita Derby, G2 San Felipe, G2 San Vicente)
Eskendereya (G1 Wood Memorial, G2 Fountain of Youth)
Ice Box (G1 Florida Derby)
Line of David (G1 Arkansas Derby)
Stately Victor (G1 Blue Grass)
Super Saver (G1 Kentucky Derby)
Lookin at Lucky (G1 Preakness, G2 Rebel)
Drosselmeyer (G1 Belmont)

Unfortunately, we lost promising colts like Eskendereya, G3 Sunland Derby winner Endorsement, and G3 Tampa Bay Derby winner Odysseus to injury. Still, unless this is a crop of later developers, its mediocrity doesn’t bode well for the rest of the year. And, honestly, that’s okay. With the disproportionate attention placed on 3-year-olds, it might not be the worst thing in the world for real racing fans to pay more attention to the quality that is available to us.

For example, in our turf runners. Not that a wider audience would know that, however. Like the G2 Dixie Stakes on Preakness Day, the G1 Manhattan Handicap was not shown on ABC despite their exclusive right to air it. Major epic fail, as Winchester upset his Eclipse-winning stablemate Gio Ponti, in a field of 11 that included seven G1 winners. For those that missed it—and that would be everybody hoping to see it live on Saturday—here is the replay:

There’s been plentiful coverage of how poor ESPN/ABC’s coverage was, and particularly the horrific pre-race vocal performance of “Empire State of Mind”. I totally agree on all accounts. Sadly, though, mediocrity is rampant—and apparently acceptable—in nearly ever facet of today’s society, so why should horse racing be any different? God, even the National Spelling Bee was picketed this year by advocates of “phonetic spelling”—yet another anti-intellectual movement to elevate the lazy mind!

Not to toot my own horn (okay, maybe a little), but in the post I wrote for Hello Race Fans about the pedigrees of Belmont contenders, two of the four I highlighted fleshed out the exacta: Drosselmeyer and Fly Down both have exceptional pedigrees to run 1-1/2 miles. Ice Box really was an obvious choice from a stamina breeding point-of-view, but it turns out he flipped his palette during the race and his Pulpit blood got him a little too excited, thus his failure to close. Spangled Star was a total flop as well—I should have thrown him off my trifectas when Rick Dutrow didn’t show the least bit enthusiasm about his chances before the race. So, while the race was rather formful in terms of breeding, I cringed watching the entire field crawl home like a bunch of $10k claimers. On the other hand, I’m thrilled trainer Bill Mott finally got a Classic win—one of the few trainers out there I totally respect as one of the “good” guys. Same goes for jockey Mike Smith.


Anonymous said...

I agree. That pre-race song was awful. But it helped convey the mediocrity. The Belmont is an old historic race. I vote for East Side, West Side, all around the town.

Potch said...

Although the Class of 2010 might not be at par with previous years, the racing has been pretty form-full. Top finishers have been quality types from the perspective of their 2 yr. old seasons.
That spelling bee episode really stings the reputashun of that sport.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to agree with most of what you said. This years crop certainly isn't the cream of the last five years, but I do believe that Lookin At Lucky is a very special horse along with First Dude, Fly Down and Ice Box. If the leading three year olds can all come back with a really big bang this summer and lead up to an exciting match-up in the Breeders' Cup it will be a redeeming year.

the Source of the James said...

Nothing wrong with the pre-race song or the cute little babe signing it.
After all, this is New York.
What was awful was the way ABC packaged it with pan shots of drunks when they could have b-rolled a nice horse themed music video over the song.

Gary said...

IF Eskendereya was able to stay healthy, IF Looking at Lucky would have drawn a better post at CD. By the way where was RULE? A lot snags lead to an overall cloudy 2010 triple crown story. I still believe Ice Box can develop into significance. Looking at Lucky should maintain respectabilty.

The last couple of years we've had these disappointments though. I can't think of anything to match 2004 (Smarty Jones)year that we could ride the derby to belmont with the edge of the seat anticipation. Eight belles and Barbaro.... .Curlin as good as he was only wins one leg. I mean its been rough to wait for the next great derby to belmont run like in past decades. Its been rough in a lot of ways.

Unknown said...

20 horses in the Derby is just too many - in a rational size field, Lookin At Lucky might have won even with the bad post position. The Derby may be a stand alone event for KY, but it's also part of the bigger TC story. Too many horses dilute interest in each individual horse.

The song STUNK. Bad enough none of the name horses were in the Belmont - without the song, it isn't the Belmont. (At least when Sidewalks of NY was replaced, it was replaced with a rousing anthem to NY.)

I cashed a ticket on Drosselmeyer, too - that part was GREAT!